This is ridiculous. On Saturday, we reported a Virginia man was arrested for posting on Twitter that he wanted to shoot and kill Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), but Twitter had not yet taken any observable action against his account. It’s now the end of the business day on Monday, and the situation remains the same.
Christopher Michael McGowan, age 38, was arrested Friday by federal authorities for tweets he posted threatening Goodlatte, vowing that the last thing the Congressman would see “will be my patriot a** behind a gun you should have long ago have prevented me owning pulling a trigger to your head.”
McGowan had previously caught the attention of local law enforcement back in December, again for threatening Goodlatte. “I will do this in full belief I am defending the constitution of the United States,” tweeted McGowan. “I am not making a joke. I will kill him. Should you believe my doing so would be illegal please arrest me so we can have this discussion in court BEFORE I actually do it. Thank you.”
As I wrote on Saturday, Twitter’s Terms of Service clearly prohibit “mak[ing] specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people,” and state that the penalty for such conduct is for the user’s account to be “permanently suspended” or, in “rare exceptions,” they will be “required to delete the violating Tweet” as a condition of keeping their account.
And now here we are days later, after I know for a fact that multiple Twitter users reported McGowan’s account, after he was arrested for making death threats on Twitter, and Twitter’s response is…what?
Absolutely nothing, as far as I can tell.
The task of monitoring all the inappropriate and violent content posted every day on Twitter is undoubtedly a monumental task, including determining which tweets are simply silly or satirical, and which ones are legitimately troubling.
But here we have someone who has a history of making such threats — concerning enough that law enforcement has gotten involved at least twice — specifically against a sitting Congressman.
In these increasingly polarized times, it is incumbent to take such threats against members of Congress seriously, because unfortunately sometimes unhinged people decide to express their political grievances with deadly force. It was less than a year ago when Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) was nearly killed when a gunman opened fire at a practice for the Congressional Baseball Game.
It is absolutely inexcusable that not only has Twitter failed to suspend McGowan’s account, but they have not even taken down the multiple tweets where he threatens Goodlatte.
We will continue to monitor this situation. If you feel so inclined, I would encourage you to report the tweets embedded below. If they’re still visible then they’re still publicly posted. Click on them and that will take you to Twitter’s site. On the top right corner of the tweet, click to get a menu and select “Report Tweet,” then “It’s abusive or harmful,” and “Threatening violence or physical harm.”
UPDATE: At some point between about 7:00 pm and 7:30 pm ET today, Twitter finally suspended McGowan’s account. About flipping time.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.